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Truths About Transformation – Part III Are We Transforming Yet?

With the fuller picture of the end transformed state tough to pin down, how does the organization get a bead on whether the efforts made to transform are or are not working? Having ascertained that your work is indeed transformation (the first article in this series), and come to a thumbnail understanding of the depth and nature of your transformation journey (the second article in this series), you are probably hungry for indicators that transformation is in fact taking place.

As the New Millennium Era dawned, most organizations were straddling Industrial Age and Information Age paradigms that have steadily drifted apart over the past 15 years. The irony is that what transformation aims for transcends the Information Age, rather using it as a fulcrum for reshaping the paradigm, culture, etc. to match the New Millennium Age characteristics:

  • Social- and Knowledge-Empowered Consumers
  • Value and Individual Meaning Driven Employees
  • Co-Creation of Products and Services to Meet Needs as They Emerge
  • Everything, All the Time, Along Many Dimensions via Multiple Channels
  • Contribution Valued Above Compensation and ‘Performance’
  • Speed of Adaptation at the Organization, Team and Individual Levels is Mission Critical
  • Processes Favor the Consumer Rather Than the Corporation
  • Cooperative Learning and Personal Fulfillment are Valued Above Material Gain
  • Self-Efficacy of the Consumer and the Employee are the Norm

Well, the great thing about having a set of characteristics of a paradigm to shoot for is that those characteristics can be used to remake the compass that the organization uses to make progress toward its transformation goals.  First, some key points should be kept in mind while transforming:

  1. Create fertile ground for transformation to take root before spending any capital dollars
  2. The most common error is managing transformation as if the organization is a machine – this will burn through money, time, and people in a hurry
  3. You can’t go too far in changing how your people see their work and each other
  4. Shifting from change management to achieving the characteristics of the New Millennium Era paradigm leverages success
  5. Treat the embedded Industrial Age mindset like an addiction
  6. Remember that Industrial Age and Information Age are drifting apart, if your organization is straddling these paradigms, crisis is imminent
  7. Once you land mostly in the Information Age mindset, you still have work to do to get to ‘flux’ New-Millennium Age, continuous transformation mindset
  8. Keep the primary shifts from and to that redefine ‘success’ in your back pocket at all times (the second article in this series)
  9. If it isn’t painful, it’s not transformative; if you’re not breaking down you’re not breaking through


Are we transforming?

Put a checkmark beside each statement that is true. If you have less than 1 checkmark in each category you are not yet transforming or are transforming slowly.

Breaks with the past…

  • People are highly emotional and things have gotten really ugly from time to time – relationships have completely broken down and/or our ability to deliver/operate has been in serious jeopardy from time to time
  • We affirm the transformative vision as it evolves over the course of the work at all levels and offer multiple interpretations of it according to the business function and audience we are addressing. People are starting to own the Vision and are lending their abilities in new ways to getting the work done
  • We say we don’t know, when we don’t know, and we fully acknowledge the scale and complexity of the work we need to do to transform at every level of the organization and this is reflected in initiative funding

Making leaps of faith into the future…

  • We reward our people for trying to succeed at change/projects even if they fail a few times
  • We don’t let errors in judgement stop us, rather we accept them as a natural consequence of working in an environment of unknowns
  • People are putting aside petty grievances and past ‘failures’ as a habit, turning conflict into a way to generate innovation more often
  • We backslide into command and control, or treating the organization like a machine when creating change, but we recover and get back on track
  • We are able to move faster and faster, not getting bogged down in fear states and ambivalence as often, regardless of the ambiguity and daunting complexity that surrounds our work
  • Although it is uncertain what roles people will have in the transformed state, generally speaking our people see the transformation as an opportunity

Synchronous Ingenuity …

  • Synchronous communication and ingenuity is rewarded and sustained
  • New ideas about how to succeed and previously unheard of ‘intel’ is surfacing from corners of the organization that is new and has valuable context to add to the work
  • Our cultural norm is transparency, interconnectedness, and collaboration
  • We focus on emergent needs rather than relying on historical trends as evidence for investment

Information Age methods are the pole-vault shortening the journey into New Millennium Age Continuous Transformation ‘flux’ end state.  But constant correction will be needed to reinforce the adapted corporate culture, way of working, and ways of relating. This transcends reinforcing behaviours, and takes on more of a doctrine in the same way as Industrial Age methods and mindset did.

water flowing into hands

Truths About Transformation – Part II How Far Is It From Here to Transformed?


Transformation demands that the organization get serious about matching how it originates, orients, and conducts business with the nature, qualities and characteristics of the New Millennium Era business paradigm.  To do this it must unlearn some amount what it has learned before attempting to transform. The first article in this series talked about how to tell if your initiative is indeed a transformation, or just a regular change.  This article offers insight into the target/transformation paradigm as the goal you’re working for when you transform.

In short, there is an entirely new ideology that organizations strive for when they transform, although it is difficult to discern and express beyond what people will be doing differently on a task level for most organizations.  I can offer a metaphor for CIOs to keep in their minds and guide their conversations…

Regardless of how much change management business-side leaders employ there is a lingering insistence that this work should create or follow a machine-like pathway for change to occur – that is, business-side leaders approach change as if the organization is a machine or assembly line, and when they begin to realize that it isn’t they bring change management specialists to make it that way.  In fact, most modern organizations are like organisms with many inter-related systems and overarching controls and channels for information flow and direction.

Furthermore, the real depth of complexity of the ‘organism’ organization is only evident when leaders begin to consider making changes. When it comes to transformative change, the magnitude is exponential and this is because the organization is attempting a metamorphosis from an organism of systems to something I and other organizational psychology professionals refer to as ‘flux’ (continuous transformation). Diagrammatically, this concept looks like this…

heirarchy  image006  image007

How most leaders regard     How the organization really is    How the organization will
the organization and              right now.                                      operate in its future state,
approach transformative                                                               which is the whole point of
change.                                                                                              transforming.

The above depiction is not news to most IT leaders. Helping business-side leaders to come to terms with this, is another matter and so I can offer some grounding points for CIOs in their efforts to deal with gaps in understanding and promote a more appropriate way of getting transformative change through.


Hallmarks of the mindset that is indicative of an organization that is ready to do the work to shift paradigms/lead and manage transformation include:

  1. Knowledge that future success cannot be predicated on the past – at least not for the next 20 years
  2. Understanding that universal, predictable, and very specific qualities and characteristics underpin the transformed state and are the target
  3. Knowing that a tried and true recipe for failure is to approach transformation work as if the organization is a like a machine rather than like an organism
  4. Recognition that Industrial Age paradigms are so deeply embedded that breakdowns and breakthroughs should be pursued and managed as a necessary process of transformation at the organization, team and individual levels
  5. Acceptance that the new paradigm is so foreign that it will take disciplined effort to transform from being like an ‘organism’ that grows and evolves, into a ‘flux’ that is never the same from one day to the next.
  6. Acceptance that in order to save time, money, and the mental, physical, and emotional health of people, preparing the way for transformation work in advance is necessary – and this is accomplished by targeting the paradigm shift in addition to applying classic change management.

So, all of this begs the question ‘How far do we need to go to transform?’.  I.e. ascertaining the depth and nature of the journey can be a big help.  Not only does this thumbnail enable some preparation to be made, it adds a degree of predictability amidst the sea of unknowns that typically accompany transformative change.


Mark where your organization is at in making the from and to characteristic shifts the cultural and operational norm using the continuums below. Identify low marks as areas that need more preparation before spending capital dollars on transformation. Average the percentages to get a sense of the scale overall scale of work:

FROM                                                                                    TO                                                                      

Work and Effort Application Method :

Separate People, Command     1  .  2  . 3  .  4  .  5         Continuous Connectedness & Collaboration
& Control

Prevailing Leadership :

Reward & Punishment          1  .  2  .  3  .  4  .  5         Inspiration & Individualized Meaning

Information Flow :

Withholding Information = Power          1  .  2  .  3  .  4  .  5         Sharing of Information = Power

Success Measurement :

Weaknesses Against Goals          1  .  2  .  3  .  4  .  5         Contribution of Strengths to Goals

Thought Capital Management :

Compliance & Conformity          1  .  2  .  3  .  4  .  5         Ingenuity & Innovation

Most organizations have made progress on the above through the application of matrix managed structures. To be clear, you are aiming to tip the balance on the shift in mindset and paradigm and not aiming to secure a wholesale shift in every corner of your organization.  Preparatory work to shake loose the Industrial Age thinking and methods should focus on the most steeped/rooted areas of the organization and the most advanced/aligned areas of the organization.

futility against the flow

Truths About Transformation – Part I Is it Really Transformation?

After chipping away to bring out clarity of purpose and a unified effort to transform for years, many organizations are getting little yield for money spent as the clock of a consumer-enabled, agility-driven marketplace ticks faster and faster.

First, it’s important to say that almost no one is doing business transformation well.  Many organizations have looked to IT and the CIO for wisdom on how to innovate and when to duck and weave through the minefield of such radical change. And, the IT folks I know are saying the truths as they see it by…

  • coaching their business peers in how to shift their thinking to ‘innovation’
  • suggesting how to apply best practices and methodologies to speed change,
  • advising their business peers techniques to carve a straighter line from ‘as-is’ to ‘to-be, and
  • making efforts to express what they know about reinventing every 3, 6 and 12 months.

But, despite best efforts, the new enlightenments lose integrity the moment they confront the deeply entrenched Industrial Age mindset that pervades or underpins most organizational culture. Instead, and regardless of how different the transformed state is, business-side leaders are reaching for tactics and techniques they used to succeed in the past and apply these to transformation work only to find that they have painfully reverse effects.

This first of three articles on the ‘truths of transformation’ will offer clarity on how transformation work is different than the kind of change that leaders have been driving over their career.  The second article describes why transformation should not be approached the same way as any other kind of project work, and sheds light on a new way of looking at how to achieve transformation objectives. The third article projects your initiative into the future and offers a line of inquiry that helps you discern whether the organization is or is not transforming as you go along.

I can also say that it’s become increasingly apparent that most leaders, managers, and staff in IT and in other business functions are not entirely clear what ‘transformation’ is even though most can recite the strategic goals and objectives and even the vision of the transformation.  Folks are working away at projects, applying themselves as much as they can but shrug or express frustration when talking about what the point of the work is.

For the record, here is my definition of what point of most transformation is…

Transformation work is conducted to meet the challenge of an emerging New Millennium business environment or ‘era’.  Meeting the new demands requires the organization to depart along a new trajectory which is very different than the direction it had been going to grow and evolve previously. The New Millennium Era is characterised by a humanistic approach in how business adapts to new and greater consumer intelligence and power, the raising of marketplace minimum entry requirements for technology connectedness, and the necessity for compression of complex systems and processes into simple accessibility. This achievement demands a re-balancing of the development of technical aspects and social aspects to achieve optimum internal collaboration and maximum response; a consideration of the organization as system of interacting, mutually dependent parts, and a reliance on synchronous communication among and between those parts. And, a moving forward at all costs along relationships that are genuinely based in intrinsic motivation and intrinsic wisdom, where work is conducted under dispersed transformational leadership and participative management of innovation to realize business objectives.

This definition might not be that helpful, so I have shaped the primary characteristics of transformation in to the test below…


Transformative change has universal, distinct and predictable characteristics; all transformation is change but not all change is transformation. Put a check mark beside the statements that are true. More than one check mark means the work is a transformation:

  1. The main outcome of the work represents a break with the past and you can see there will be breakdowns and breakthroughs over the course of the work.
  2. The changes are far-reaching in impact, and the scope, scale, and complexity are staggering and comprised mainly of unknowns.
  3. The work is driven by competitiveness and keeping pace/doing more with less, regulatory or sweeping changes that are consumer oriented – i.e. protect the consumer’s time and money.
  4. The changes transcend work automation and leverage the ascendancy of corporate information to intelligence and wisdom.

If your initiative tests negative as transformation, it’s safe to apply the tried and true practices and methods for leading and managing regular change – they will work well.  If your initiative tests positive as transformation then a new and different approach to leading and managing the change is needed – one that unpicks the deeply embedded Industrial Age paradigm to some degree before time and money is spent rather than working to clear these kinds of barriers while you are running the project.

See Article in Government CIO Magazine… LINK

The Well-Placed Voice of IT at the Executive Table – the Power of WE

– By Dr. Linda Miller

Many organizations still see their IT function as non-strategic – lying somewhere on the continuum between order taker and scapegoat.   Business want to give IT some measurements and send them away to construct something that we will tweak here and there for a perfect fit… in denial about the magnitude of the complexity within the IT world and unable to grasp the meaning and value that IT brings to business and its potential as a strategic partner. 

Business and IT are working in the same boat, so why is it so hard for business and IT to capitalize on the power of WE.

As deep and complex as IT is, it offers an almost instant transformative power.  And we as IT practitioners perceive that our work appears to non-IT people as a huge piece of experimental artwork – avant-garde and wildly ungraspable.  This is actually a misconception, but conveying where the balance points of the IT creative process are, as compared to where the balance points of business command and control systems are, continues to be difficult after 50 years of trying.

We as business people are reluctant to give up control to what we instinctively perceive as a force so powerful it could consume all in its path – a justifiable fear, which would explain why real information about business strategy is often left out of conversations with IT.  Until we as business people are ready to have honest and equal fear-free dialogues with them, our IT leaders need to continue to find creative ways to work through the psychology of the situation in order to add their voice to the greater good and health of the business and its people.

As the industrial-age-minded, curmudgeons of “business” wave-away the millennium-entitled- acting-out of adolescent “IT” again and again, forward motion grinds to a halt.  And, having had the unbridled enthusiasm worn out of it in a manner not that far from the way a horse is broken, we as IT people have stopped coming up with brilliant ideas about how we can create something that will blow the socks off our business guardians with its potential – that approach has proven to be career limiting. 

We’ve not been particularly good at knowing how to direct IT potential under industrial-age business paradigms, and IT can overwhelm its audience when talking to business practitioners long-steeped in fixed and finite realms of numbers and calculations.  Most often IT still reports into the CFO as a measure of control that was put in place in the ‘80s and ‘90s to try to rationalize IT costs – but mostly to allow time for we as business people to perceive and carefully embrace and stabilize this explosive power called IT. Since the turn of the millennium, however, a balance of controlled experimentation vs. radical innovation has tipped and business risk has shifted from grappling with unfettered IT spend to dangerously low generation of business innovation.

Expressing this in terms “flow”, we as IT people cannot celebrate stasis and equilibrium with our business comrades because IT is essentially movement – that is, IT represents the movement of the business and amplifies it.  Like fashion, there is no beginning and no ultimate end-state of IT.  There is no destination point.  The point of IT is movement and flux.  So ultimately, how can a conversation between a group that values stasis and a group that is always in flux find success?  When flux is dominant stasis occurs accidentally, when stasis is dominant flux bounces around in a closed system with little productive output… sound familiar?

Metaphors aside, we as IT people have known for some time that the nature of IT is essentially different and opposing to the nature of traditional business.  Having exhausted all avenues of trying to fit in, we as IT people are left wanting for a place to put the overspill of the potential of IT. We have started to look into human connection, interaction, creation and thought for a place to lend the robustness of IT for business benefit.  But before business goes there, we as business people must break down and break through traditional confines that judge results more by ROI than by positioning for the future. Here is where IT shines its best light – and also where the impetus for business transformation is – shifting trajectory to where future success now lies.

So, the place of the voice of IT has become the sum of what it was in the ‘90s – offering solutions to stated business problems and designing couture systems and software to assist the bottom line – plus a “new-millennium” role as illuminating the path business takes to position and reposition itself at the right speed. We as IT people have the rapid-fire-change, transformation-through-uncertainty competency the rest of the organization is looking for.  Building the unified path is a new and daunting piece of work we must approach together.

As we as IT people sigh deeply about digging into the next round with business, weary from decades of repression, we also look to knowledge capital management and business intelligence as playgrounds to exercise within – a chance to take longer strides at least, as we run the perimeter of our cage.

As we as business people sigh deeply about surrendering more control and waiving a white flag to IT, we swallow a chunk of pride and lift our gaze to the human connection part of the business equation as a way to share the burden that comes with the demand for agility – it takes many minds to turn the school of fish in unison.

It’s becoming obvious that IT and business are finding common ground in collaboration enablement, and value network.  For this common ground to be a lasting connection point requires moving conversations about change and transformation away from being expressed in a language of sameness and a celebration of conformity achievement (risk), and toward expressing them in a language of dynamic multi-purposefulness and the intrinsic indeterminacy of the learning journey (reward). That is, sharing the common ground requires a reordering of thought from hierarchies, taxonomies, separateness and self-contained-ness toward group genius and innovation for the sake of innovation, in full knowing that what is created will inevitably benefit the business, it’s a matter of deciding where and how to apply it.

And that is a conversation we can all have.

Co-Creation Applied – Are You Ready?

Transformation by Co-Creation

Why would you tap into consumer wisdom before you tap your internal experts for advice about how to transform?

For a number of reasons… not the least of which is that your organization may not be ready for the depth of engagement required to transform. Past attempts to mobilize internal wisdom for innovation may have met with crippling ambivalence, or perhaps the imperative for digging deep enough to bring about transformation lacked clarity or may not have been compelling.

Stated in other terms, engaging your consumers in co-creation activities is in part a strategy for breaking though comfortable competency in the status quo, and the associated beliefs and assumptions held in support of the current organizational paradigm and hard-won past success. Consumer co-creation is a way to acknowledge the reality of the consumers’ increasing ability to influence market trends. Managed co-creation can leverage the commitment of your people to dig deeper and apply their wisdom and expertise in new ways toward transformational objectives.

The practice of co-creation has two primary outcomes:  Seeing Value in a new way, and Creating Space where none existed before.

Your customers are ready to co-create… Are you?


Co-creation efforts are aimed at getting to the heart of your relationship with your customers.  In capturing the essential elements of consumer thinking the organization must move on to seeing the intention and intelligence behind them to begin to define ‘value’ anew.  In every sense of the word, the business’s focus must be shifted to understand the value of the consumer-expressed ideas so that they may be internalized by the leaders and makers of transformation. Only then can the ideas be tested against the current organizational paradigm to see what must change in order to align consumer demand and product/service.  And as importantly, to align consumer-expressed value and the way in which the product/service is delivered.

Once the elements of value are seen and understood they can be used to reshape and reorder; embellish, replace and renew the product/service and the systems, processes and human competencies that support their delivery.

This work is more difficult than it sounds as each level of the organization sees the emerging ‘value’ in a different way and all of the perspectives together form the necessary mix for transformation to occur.  You can start anywhere with co-creation as a practice: with the C-Suite, with the customer, with middle management, with staff.  But for co-creation to yield benefits it must eventually be felt by all of these groups in an aligned way.



Ingenuity is a function of pressure, and pressure felt in one corner of the organization but not felt in another will result in little traction. As such, efforts to increase customer engagement through co-creation will fail to translate into ‘transformation’ without a corresponding effort to engage staff in the co-creation journey. Like almost anything else we do to grow business, it is best to take an iterative approach to co-creation, so that internal co-creation informs customer co-creation, which in turn, informs and presses internal co-creators to dig deeper, find a new edge.

With support and management, iterative co-creation work forms a part of an ‘ingenuity engine’ between corporation and customer and, under skilled leadership, ignites a synchronized internal ‘ingenuity engine’ that pumps new thought up and down the organization, continuously opening new space for transformation from staff through middle-management to C-Suite, from C-Suite through middle-management to staff.



Making the internal shifts necessary to spark and sustain co-creation requires a good deal of support.  In-flight translation of consumer-expressed concepts demands the ability to leave behind what feels clear, natural and normal in favor of a murky emerging context that is at once individually owned and shared by all participants: a shared presence in design and development (creation), a shared knowledge generation, and a shared value alignment.

Preparing leaders of transformation and the internal participants in co-creation to take in and bring about understanding of foreign-seeming value expressions and then act upon them a way that creates the space for the value to be realized is the challenge that co-creation presents to the organization. A challenge that, when met, mobilizes the organization to deliver newly defined value in a way that can be readily taken up internally, and capitalizes on the consumer interest generated by co-creation.


–          Dr. Linda Miller
© iMind Transformation. All Rights Reserved

Transformative Change – It’s Bigger Than You Think

Dr. Linda Miller’s latest article in Government CIO Magazine talks about how approach communicating that a transformative effort is approaching.  It highlights the primary elephants in the room to recognize to retain audience attention and avoid the “you’ve got to be kidding” response.

Communicating clearly and in realistic terms from the get-go is critical to opening the pathway for transformative change and avoiding the paralysis of disbelief and starting the wheels of innate wisdom turning.

Government CIO Magazine